The Saddleback baseball team rallied for a 10-9 win against Cypress College on Tuesday night at Doug Fritz Field. The Gauchos scored five runs in the final two innings, concluding with a walk-off hit by Casey Downs.
Saddleback fell behind 3-0 in the opening inning and battled back with five runs in the second inning to take a 5-3 lead. The Gauchos had five hits in the inning and a pair of walks as Willie Lajoie, Reed Beverly, Ryan Thibert, Chris Demgen and Riley Kasper all had singles in the inning.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Cypress quickly responded with three runs in the top of the third inning for a 6-5 lead. The Chargers added another run in the sixth inning and two more in the eighth inning in taking what looked like a commanding 9-5 lead.
Saddleback started the comeback in the bottom of the eighth inning with three straight hits. Zack Bowman led off with a double to right field and Willie Lajoie then singled up the middle to put runners and first and third. Reed Beverly followed with a double to drive in Bowman, cutting the deficit to 9-6 and giving the Gauchos runners at second and third with no outs in the inning. Casey Downs then pinch hit and flied out to center field, bringing home Lajoie to cut the deficit to 9-7. The rest of the inning was quiet as Cypress carried a 9-7 lead into the ninth inning.
Saddleback started the bottom of the ninth inning with Ryan Thibert collecting a bloop single to right field. Following a pop out, Thibert then stole second base. Moments later, Riley Kasper walked to put the tying run at first base with one out in the inning. The Gauchos then surprised Cypress with a double steal, with Thibert taking third base and Kasper second to put the tying run 180 feet from home plate. The Chargers then pitched around Zack Bowman and allowed a walk to set up a potential double-play. It backfired on them as Willie Lajoie delivered his third hit of the game, fighting off a good pitch on the outside of the plate and driving it up the middle for a single to drive in both Thibert and Kasper and tie the game at 9-9. Following a fielder's choice, Saddleback had Bowman at third base with two outs and Casey Downs at the plate. The freshman from Surprise, Arizona, delivered a line shot that ricocheted off of the second baseman's glove into right field for the winning hit, prompting the players from the dugout to rush the field.
Saddleback improved to 13-6 overall and 3-1 in Orange Empire Conference play with the win. The Gauchos are in a three-way tie for second place with Santa Ana College and Riverside City College, one game back of Orange Coast College in the standings. Saddleback and Cypress have two games remaining in the three-game series, starting with a game at Cypress on Thursday (2:00 PM) and following with a home game on Saturday (12:00 PM). Cypress dropped to 15-6 overall and 0-4 in Orange Empire Conference play with the loss.